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British Isles by Guillaume Delisle, published by Covens & Mortier. 1730

In about 1708, Delisle's general map of the British Isles, first produced in Paris in 1702, was copied by Pierre Mortier for publication in Amsterdam. The plate is slightly smaller, and no engraver or designer's signature appears. Above the top border is an additional Latin title: "Magnae Britanniae Tabula, Comprehendens Angliae, Scotiae, ac Hiberniae Regna, Ad Usum Serenissimi Burgundiae Ducis". The map itself, and the decorative features, are almost identical to those of de L'Isle.


Covens & Mortier. A Map Publishing House in Amsterdam. 1721-1866.

For almost two centuries, the most significant and crucial Dutch publishing house in commercial cartography was the Amsterdam firm of Covens & Mortier. Concerning quantity, it was the biggest contemporary map-trading house worldwide. They distributed innumerable maps, atlases, globes, and books.

Pieter (Pierre) Mortier (Leiden, 1661 – Amsterdam, 1711)

Nothing is known about the youth of Pieter Mortier. He studied in Paris from 1681 to approximately 1685. He must have come into contact with French 'libraires' and learned the bookselling trade there. In 1685, he returned to Amsterdam and opened a small bookshop. He joined the Book, Art Sellers' and Printers' Guild in the same year.

Pieter sold books in Dutch and foreign languages, but he also published books on his own, usually in French. His business flourished so much that in 1688, he was forced to rent another house on the Vijgendam.

Pieter Mortier's first privilege for maps was granted by the States of Holland and West Friesland on September 15 1690. It refers to the maps of Sanson that he 'is printing and correcting with great pains and care'.

Pieter began the large-scale publication of maps and atlases. By the beginning of the 18th century, Pieter had become so wealthy that he could purchase three houses in Amsterdam: the Beurssluis, on the Vijgendam, and the Heremietensteeg. He rebuilt the house on the Vijgendam into a large, prestigious house that would serve for over a century as a shop, business, and residential structure for Covens & Mortier's publishing house.

He died on February 13, 1711, after a brief illness. The company continued under Pieter's widow's management, Amelia' s-Gravesande.

After she died in 1719, her son, Cornelis, took over the management for a few years.

On November 20, 1721, a company was founded by Cornelis Mortier and Johannes Covens I. The latter was married the same year to Cornelis's sister. From that year on, the name of :

Covens & Mortier.

Their firm would see a massive expansion in the next 140 years. In 1732, the heirs sold the property to their brother Cornelis and his partner Covens. Their main competitors were Reinier & Josua Ottens and Gerard Valck & Petrus Schenck. After the death of Johannes Covens I (1774), his son Johannes Covens II (1722-1794) entered the business. In 1778, Johannes added a new company name :

J. Covens & Son.

Johannes Covens II was succeeded by his son Cornelis Covens (1764-1825), who, in turn, brought Peter Mortier IV, the great-grandson of Petrus Mortier I, into the business. The name was from 1794 to 1866:

Mortier, Covens & Son.

The last Covens in the series was Cornelis Johannes Covens (1806-1880).

Covens & Mortier had a large stock of atlases and maps, including Delisle, Jaillot, Johannes Janssonius, Sanson, and Claes Jansz. Visscher, Nicolaas Visscher, and Frederik de Wit. For decades, an impressive number of atlases came from the press.


Guillaume Delisle (Paris, 1675 – 1726)

Guillaume Delisle (de L’Isle), one of the key figures in the development of French cartography, is the son of Claude Delisle, a cartographer, and the half-brother of astronomers Joseph-Nicolas Delisle and Louis de l'Isle de la Croyère.

While his father has to be given credit for educating Guillaume, the boy showed early signs of being an exceptional talent. He soon contributed to the family workshop by drawing maps for his father's historical works. To perfect his skills, Guillaume Delisle became the student of the astronomer Jean-Dominique Cassini. Early on, he produced high-quality maps, the first being his Carte de la Nouvelle-France et des Pays Voisins in 1696. Delisle's first atlas appeared around 1700, and in 1702 he became a member of the French Académie Royale des Sciences. He taught geography to the young Louis XV, and in 1718 he received the title of Premier Géographe du Roi. On a commission from Peter the Great, he produced a map of the Caspian Sea, a region barely known. Many of the place names he gave are still in use. His Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississippi (1718) is the first detailed map of this region.

A six-year-long plagiarism trial pits Delisle against Jean-Baptiste Nolin, cartographer. It is Nolin, the real plagiarist, who loses.

Delisle has remained famous for his astronomical-based corrections and the completeness of its topography. The high scientific quality of the work produced by the Delisle family contrasted with the workshop of Sanson. While Sanson knowingly published outdated facts and mistakes, Delisle constantly updated his maps to reflect widening knowledge of the world.

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Les Isles Britanniques ou sont le Royaume D'Angleterre Tiré de Sped Celuy D'Ecosse Tiré de Th. Pont et Celuy D'Irlande Riré de Petti.

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Item Number:  25680 Authenticity Guarantee

Category:  Antique maps > Europe > British Isles

Old, antique map of British Isles, by Guillaume Delisle - Covens & Mortier.

Title: Les Isles Britanniques ou sont le Royaume D'Angleterre Tiré de Sped Celuy D'Ecosse Tiré de Th. Pont et Celuy D'Irlande Riré de Petti.

Cartographer: Guillaume Delisle.

Date of the first edition: c. 1708.
Date of this map: 1730.

Copper engraving, printed on paper.
Size (not including margins): 460 x 575mm (18.11 x 22.64 inches).
Verso: Blank.
Condition: Original coloured in outline, excellent.
Condition Rating: A+.
References: Shirley (BI to 1750), Mortier 1

From: Atlas Nouveau ... Par Guillaume de l'Isle ... Amsterdam, Covens & Mortier, 1730.

In about 1708, Delisle's general map of the British Isles, first produced in Paris in 1702, was copied by Pierre Mortier for publication in Amsterdam. The plate is slightly smaller, and no engraver or designer's signature appears. Above the top border is an additional Latin title: "Magnae Britanniae Tabula, Comprehendens Angliae, Scotiae, ac Hiberniae Regna, Ad Usum Serenissimi Burgundiae Ducis". The map itself, and the decorative features, are almost identical to those of de L'Isle.


Covens & Mortier. A Map Publishing House in Amsterdam. 1721-1866.

For almost two centuries, the most significant and crucial Dutch publishing house in commercial cartography was the Amsterdam firm of Covens & Mortier. Concerning quantity, it was the biggest contemporary map-trading house worldwide. They distributed innumerable maps, atlases, globes, and books.

Pieter (Pierre) Mortier (Leiden, 1661 – Amsterdam, 1711)

Nothing is known about the youth of Pieter Mortier. He studied in Paris from 1681 to approximately 1685. He must have come into contact with French 'libraires' and learned the bookselling trade there. In 1685, he returned to Amsterdam and opened a small bookshop. He joined the Book, Art Sellers' and Printers' Guild in the same year.

Pieter sold books in Dutch and foreign languages, but he also published books on his own, usually in French. His business flourished so much that in 1688, he was forced to rent another house on the Vijgendam.

Pieter Mortier's first privilege for maps was granted by the States of Holland and West Friesland on September 15 1690. It refers to the maps of Sanson that he 'is printing and correcting with great pains and care'.

Pieter began the large-scale publication of maps and atlases. By the beginning of the 18th century, Pieter had become so wealthy that he could purchase three houses in Amsterdam: the Beurssluis, on the Vijgendam, and the Heremietensteeg. He rebuilt the house on the Vijgendam into a large, prestigious house that would serve for over a century as a shop, business, and residential structure for Covens & Mortier's publishing house.

He died on February 13, 1711, after a brief illness. The company continued under Pieter's widow's management, Amelia' s-Gravesande.

After she died in 1719, her son, Cornelis, took over the management for a few years.

On November 20, 1721, a company was founded by Cornelis Mortier and Johannes Covens I. The latter was married the same year to Cornelis's sister. From that year on, the name of :

Covens & Mortier.

Their firm would see a massive expansion in the next 140 years. In 1732, the heirs sold the property to their brother Cornelis and his partner Covens. Their main competitors were Reinier & Josua Ottens and Gerard Valck & Petrus Schenck. After the death of Johannes Covens I (1774), his son Johannes Covens II (1722-1794) entered the business. In 1778, Johannes added a new company name :

J. Covens & Son.

Johannes Covens II was succeeded by his son Cornelis Covens (1764-1825), who, in turn, brought Peter Mortier IV, the great-grandson of Petrus Mortier I, into the business. The name was from 1794 to 1866:

Mortier, Covens & Son.

The last Covens in the series was Cornelis Johannes Covens (1806-1880).

Covens & Mortier had a large stock of atlases and maps, including Delisle, Jaillot, Johannes Janssonius, Sanson, and Claes Jansz. Visscher, Nicolaas Visscher, and Frederik de Wit. For decades, an impressive number of atlases came from the press.


Guillaume Delisle (Paris, 1675 – 1726)

Guillaume Delisle (de L’Isle), one of the key figures in the development of French cartography, is the son of Claude Delisle, a cartographer, and the half-brother of astronomers Joseph-Nicolas Delisle and Louis de l'Isle de la Croyère.

While his father has to be given credit for educating Guillaume, the boy showed early signs of being an exceptional talent. He soon contributed to the family workshop by drawing maps for his father's historical works. To perfect his skills, Guillaume Delisle became the student of the astronomer Jean-Dominique Cassini. Early on, he produced high-quality maps, the first being his Carte de la Nouvelle-France et des Pays Voisins in 1696. Delisle's first atlas appeared around 1700, and in 1702 he became a member of the French Académie Royale des Sciences. He taught geography to the young Louis XV, and in 1718 he received the title of Premier Géographe du Roi. On a commission from Peter the Great, he produced a map of the Caspian Sea, a region barely known. Many of the place names he gave are still in use. His Carte de la Louisiane et du cours du Mississippi (1718) is the first detailed map of this region.

A six-year-long plagiarism trial pits Delisle against Jean-Baptiste Nolin, cartographer. It is Nolin, the real plagiarist, who loses.

Delisle has remained famous for his astronomical-based corrections and the completeness of its topography. The high scientific quality of the work produced by the Delisle family contrasted with the workshop of Sanson. While Sanson knowingly published outdated facts and mistakes, Delisle constantly updated his maps to reflect widening knowledge of the world.

References: Shirley (BI to 1750) - Mortier 1

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